Fantasy Watch: Top 10 players for the 146th Open
This week, The Open returns to Royal Birkdale for the first time since Padraig Harrington successfully defended his title in 2008
From Peter Thomson to Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson, Royal Birkdale has seen many of the game’s greatest players lift the Claret Jug.
Amid a rush of first-time major champions, the field for this week’s championship appears especially wide open. Here’s a look at some of the players you should consider when building a fantasy lineup for The 146th Open:
1. Rickie Fowler: After a number of close calls, it feels like it might be his time. Fowler was a runner-up at Royal Liverpool in 2014 and tied for fifth at Royal St. George's in 2011, and he comes in on a tear that includes four top-10 finishes in his last five starts. Fowler has been close in each of the first two majors this year, highlighted by a T-5 finish at Erin Hills, and appears on the verge of a breakthrough.
2. Jordan Spieth: Spieth has not played since a memorable victory at the Travelers Championship, where he holed a bunker shot on the first playoff hole. His Open record includes a T-4 finish two years ago at St. Andrews, and he has cracked the top 50 in each of his four prior trips. While his results have had both ebbs and flows this season, his iron game appears to be peaking just in time for a busy summer stretch.
3. Jon Rahm: Rahm continues to impress in his first full season as a pro, and he enters off a six-shot romp two weeks ago at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open. Rahm also won earlier this year at Torrey Pines and has already rocketed to No. 7 in the world rankings. The Spaniard has all the tools, and it's only a matter of time before he contends – and wins – a major.
4. Sergio Garcia: The reigning Masters champ continues to bask in his status as a major champion, and now he heads to the one major where he has had consistent success. Garcia's playoff loss at Carnoustie in 2007 highlights a record that includes seven top-10 finishes in The Open since 2005, including each of the last three years. His ball-striking prowess and creativity both serve him well on links courses, a trend that should continue this week.
5. Hideki Matsuyama: Matsuyama rose to No. 2 in the world rankings after his runner-up finish at last month's U.S. Open, and now he has his sights set on a maiden major. His weakness on the greens can often be neutralized on links layouts, as evidenced by his Open record that includes a T-6 finish at Muirfield in his 2013 debut.
6. Dustin Johnson: The world No. 1 appeared untouchable earlier this year, but he has not played competitively since missing the cut last month at the U.S. Open. Johnson has three top-10 finishes in his last six Open starts, including a runner-up result in 2011, and his advantage off the tee will be noticeable this week – if, of course, he's able to find the tight fairways at Royal Birkdale.
7. Tommy Fleetwood: The local favorite should have plenty of support from the crowds this week, as Fleetwood returns home playing some of the best golf of his career. The Englishman already has two wins this year on the European Tour, including the HNA Open de France three weeks ago, and he has finished T-10 or better in each of his last four worldwide starts.
8. Adam Scott: Five years after his heartbreak at Royal Lytham & St. Anne's, the Aussie remains in search of the Claret Jug. Scott closed with a 68 Sunday at the AAM Scottish Open to build some momentum for Royal Birkdale, where he finished T-16 back in 2008. His record in this event also includes four straight top-10 finishes from 2012-15 and he has missed the cut in The Open just once since 2004.
9. Henrik Stenson: The defending champ comes to Birkdale downplaying his current form, just as Padraig Harrington did nine years ago. But Stenson's Open record speaks for itself, and it also includes a T-3 finish on the Southport links back in 2008. The Swede hasn't won since lifting the Claret Jug last year, but he has finished T-26 or better in five of his last six starts.
10. Rory McIlroy: The Ulsterman is looking for answers after sloppy play led to missed cuts each of the last two weeks. But McIlroy insists that a turnaround is in sight, and his Open record means he can't be overlooked even in the midst of a rut. His win at Royal Liverpool in 2014 remains the highlight, but McIlroy also tied for third at St. Andrews in 2010 and was T-5 last year at Royal Troon.